The Climate Change Storm

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 9:14 PM GMT on April 06, 2007

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Significant climate change is already occurring, will grow dramatically, and will cause serious disruptions to natural ecosystems and the lives of billions of people world-wide over the coming century. We need to better prepare for the inevitable changes--and attempt to lessen the magnitude of the these changes by reducing greenhouse gas emissions as soon as possible. That's the take-home message from today's latest report from the United Nations-sponsored Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). Every six years, the IPCC releases a huge, influential study detailing the state of Earth's climate. Part 1 of the 2007 report, summarizing the science of climate change, was released in February. Today's summary, titled "Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability" addressed the likely impacts of climate change on Earth's ecosystems and people. Not all of the expected changes will be harmful--the IPCC emphasizes that "impacts of future climate change will be mixed across regions" for temperature rises of 1 to 3 �C above 1990 levels, with the big losers being the poor developing countries. However, if global warming exceeds 2 to 3 �C, the IPCC states it is very likely that all regions of the globe will suffer increased costs or declining benefits. I believe it is the responsibility of every citizen of the planet to take the 30 minutes needed to read the IPCC summary and familiarize themselves with what the world's top scientists say about the likely impacts of climate change. The scope and severity of the Earth-shaking changes that lie ahead present a breathtakingly formidable challenge for humanity.


Figure 1. Locations of significant changes in physical systems (snow, ice and frozen ground, hydrology, coastal processes) and biological systems (land, ocean, and freshwater) from 1970 to 2004. Between 90% and 100% of these changes are consistent with warming global temperatures, due in large part to human-emitted greenhouse gases. White areas are where not enough data existed to determine a temperature change. Figure 1 is a simplified form of Figure SPM-1 of the 2007 IPCC document, "Climate Change Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability--Summary for Policy Makers."

Observed impacts of climate change to date
The IPCC report begins by summarizing observed changes in physical systems (snow, ice and frozen ground, hydrology, coastal processes) and biological systems (land, ocean, and freshwater) reported in 577 papers in the scientific literature between 1990 and 2004 (Figure 1). They conclude, "Observational evidence from all continents and most oceans shows that many natural systems are being affected by regional climate changes, particularly temperature increases." Examples for which they are highly (80% chance) or very highly confident (>90% chance) of include:

Earlier bird migrations and leaf unfolding
Poleward shifts in the ranges of various plant and animal species
Shifts in the ranges and numbers of ocean species near the poles
Earlier migrations of fish in rivers
Earlier and increased peaks in spring run-off from glacier- and snow-fed rivers
Warming of lakes and rivers
More and bigger glacial lakes
Melting permafrost

Medium confidence effects (50% chance of being true) observed in the Northern Hemisphere include:

Earlier spring planting of crops
Increases in forest fires and pest damage to forests
Heat-related deaths in Europe, spread of disease in some areas, and changes in allergenic pollen
Hunting and travel by humans over Arctic snow and ice

Future impacts
This is where the IPCC report gets very sobering. Keep in mind that the predicted future impacts may be understated, given the cautious nature of scientists--and the fact that the final version was edited by government officials, who changed the original conclusions of the scientists. I'll present just of few of the more mind-boggling impacts (in blue, with my comments in black), and leave the rest for the interested reader to discover:

The resilience of many ecosystems is likely to be exceeded this century by an unprecedented combination of climate change, associated disturbances (e.g., flooding, drought, wildfire, insects, ocean acidification), and other global change drivers (e.g., land use change, pollution, over-exploitation of resources) (high confidence).
In other words, some ecosystems will collapse, putting the people who depend on these ecosystems in grave peril.
Many millions more people are projected to be flooded every year due to sea-level rise by the 2080s. Those densely-populated and low-lying areas where adaptive capacity is relatively low, and which already face other challenges such as tropical storms or local coastal subsidence, are especially at risk. The numbers affected will be largest in the mega-deltas of Asia and Africa while small islands are especially vulnerable (very high confidence).
Expect damage and human suffering from hurricanes to greatly increase in coming decades, thanks to higher seas levels.
There is medium confidence that at least partial deglaciation of the Greenland ice sheet, and possibly the West Antarctic ice sheet, would occur over a period of time ranging from centuries to millennia for a global average temperature increase of 1-4 �C (relative to 1990-2000), causing a contribution to sea level rise of 4-6 m or more.
Along with drought and ecosystem collapse, sea level rise is my big concern. Sea level before the most recent ice age was about 4-6 meters (13-20 feet) higher than today, at global temperatures that we expect to match by 2100. The IPCC states that a sea level rise of 0.6-1.9 feet (0.18-0.58 meters) is expected by 2100, and a 4-6 meter rise is not likely for centuries. However, our understanding of the response of glaciers to climate warming is poor. An unexpected rapid partial disintegration of the Greenland or West Antarctic ice sheets later this century raising sea levels by 2 meters (6 feet) has at least a 1% chance of occurring, in my opinion.

Conclusion
The language of the 2007 IPCC climate report is couched in uncertainly, but the broad picture is clear: future climate change may rival or exceed a World War in its effect on society. Steps to lessen its impact and adapt to it need to be made as soon as possible. The cost in lives, dollars, and human suffering will be far greater if we do not.

In his 2006 book, The Revenge of Gaia, philosopher-scientist James Lovelock writes, "I am old enough to notice a remarkable similarity between attitudes over sixty years ago towards the threat of war and those now towards the threat of global heating. Most of us think that something unpleasant may soon happen, but we are as confused as we were in 1938 over what form it will take and what to do about it. Our response so far is just like that before the Second World War, and attempt to appease. The Kyoto agreement was uncannily like that of Munich, with politicians out to show they do respond but in reality playing for time...Battle will soon be joined, and what we face now is far more deadly than any blitzkrieg."

The climate change storm is coming, and the wind is already starting to rise.

Next blog
My next blog will be Monday afternoon or Tuesday. I've got several topics in mind--tornadoes in Chicago, Greenland glaciers, or hurricane model improvements.

Jeff Masters

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441. hurricanetrak6671
5:19 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Omg only54 days until the offical start of the atlantic hurricane season!!!!
440. Patrap
5:16 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Click on Real player here on the NASA page to see the 1:33pm EST launch in a few minutes. Live feed.Link
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
439. hurricanetrak6671
5:15 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hey!, lol i would love to do wht taz is doing for the weather channel but i'm not old enough lol but i'v been through 4 hurricanes before and i love to observbe them, sooooo, what r some of ur guys predictions for florida and the east coast this year?
438. ryang
5:12 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hey Trak and Hurricanic!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12413
437. hurricanetrak6671
5:09 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hey taz, ur one of the luckeys guy going out and filming a hurricane for the weather channel i would love to caputuer the natral beauty of a hurricane :0)
436. hurricanic
5:00 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Deleted.
Member Since: August 9, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 130
435. hurricanic
4:59 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hello.

Today appears to be one of those boring, cold days.
Member Since: August 9, 2006 Posts: 7 Comments: 130
434. Thunderstorm2
4:39 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
G'Afternoon H23.

Hope you have a great Easter Weekend aswell
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
433. ryang
4:38 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Afternoon 23....happy easter buddy!!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12413
432. hurricane23
4:36 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Good afternoon everybody...

What a beautiful day across South Florida today with not one cloud in the sky.Hope everyone has a great easter weekend.Adrian

Adrian's Weather
Member Since: May 14, 2006 Posts: 8 Comments: 13626
431. ryang
4:30 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
LOL Pottery Barbados should be safe i hope.....But i feel we might get something if not something bad.....Trinidad to far south i think....better go Antigue...LOL
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12413
430. pottery
4:30 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Peace, like a river
Flows through the city streets,
Long past the midnight curfew
We sat starry-eyed....

Paul Simon.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
429. Tazmanian
4:28 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
lol pottery


well evere one keep saying 17-19 storms this make it 21 and will have all the name for this year this like in 2005
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114709
427. pottery
4:27 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I'm out for a while. Have to fix breakfast, and its12;30 already. Holidays are nice...........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
426. Thunderstorm2
4:27 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Thank god no storm surge gets to Orlando but we're going to have a problem if all the little lakes that we have overflow.

And the winds, don't forget the winds
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
425. pottery
4:25 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
On second thoughts, Taz, with a prediction like that, stay where you are LOL
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
424. pottery
4:24 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Way to GO, Taz. You should move to St. Kitts for this season. Get closer to the action and stuff........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
423. Thunderstorm2
4:22 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Jeeez taz.
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
422. pottery
4:22 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
But NO storms in the South Carib. Islands. Please. Thanks............
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
421. Tazmanian
4:21 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
21 storms 10 to 15 hurricane and 5 to 8 severe hurricane
Member Since: May 21, 2006 Posts: 5091 Comments: 114709
420. pottery
4:20 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Ah, yessss, i remember, written in Stone.........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
419. Thunderstorm2
4:19 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
i predict 17-19 storm with 7 hurricanes and 4 severe hurrincanes
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
418. Thunderstorm2
4:16 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I wonder if that guy STORMTOP will be back this season
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
417. ryang
4:16 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I predict 16-18 storms.....8 hurricanes......3-5 severe!
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12413
416. Patrap
4:16 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
If one can build Tunnels to save Mars and earth..one can find NASA Tv on the web I would presume.
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
415. Patrap
4:14 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Google "NASA select" CB..your full grown. Or Ch.376 on DirecTV
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
414. pottery
4:13 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
I predict 14 storms, and they all become hurricanes, with 5 landfalling. No cat 5 in this season. And this is written in, er, um what was it written in again ?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
412. ryang
4:11 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
TS2 i just did a blog on H season.
Member Since: August 25, 2006 Posts: 329 Comments: 12413
410. Patrap
4:11 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
U.S. Tourist Tagging Along On Russian Launch
Saturday, April 07, 2007 7:05:09 AM

Expedition 14


Right now the crew of Expedition 15 is getting ready to launch from Kazakhstan, bringing with it the world's fifth paying space tourist.

Today, two Russian Cosmonauts and U.S. businessman Charles Simonyi will be aboard the spacecraft when it leaves for the International Space Station.

Expedition 15 is scheduled to dock at the ISS Monday afternoon. It will be greeted by astronaut Sunita Williams who launched on Discovery in December.

Charles Simonyi, 58, made a fortune with projects including Microsoft word. He's paying Russia between $20 million and $25 million for the trip. He will return to Earth with Expedition 14 crew members on April 20.

The launch of Expedition 15 is scheduled for 1:30 EST this afternoon from Kazakhstan
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
408. Thunderstorm2
4:09 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
What are your predictions of the upcoming H Season?
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
406. pottery
4:09 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hoos brains ? mine ?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
405. pottery
4:08 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
But all is well.
looking forward to The Season !
will it, wont it, its all so exiting man.............
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
403. Patrap
4:06 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
The Expedition Soyuz Launch from Bakinour to the ISS today...@12:33pm CST on NASA select 6
Member Since: July 3, 2005 Posts: 420 Comments: 127536
402. pottery
4:05 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
True Thunder, I've been out of commission for a while.

Here, its noon, and its hot........
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
401. Thunderstorm2
4:04 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
How are you?
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
400. pottery
12:01 PM AST on April 07, 2007
Morning, Thunderstorm2
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
398. Thunderstorm2
4:00 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hi Pottery, long time no speak eh?
Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
397. pottery
11:57 AM AST on April 07, 2007
Thanks for that comment Guy, but what is the difference between 500 and 800 km, in space. Why cant it get there ?
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018
396. Thunderstorm2
3:57 PM GMT on April 07, 2007
Hi guys.

Member Since: December 22, 2006 Posts: 129 Comments: 7608
393. pottery
11:54 AM AST on April 07, 2007
Hi Ryang. We are solving some tech difficuties here, and doing well at it too.
Member Since: October 24, 2005 Posts: 0 Comments: 24018

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Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.

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